If you prefer your Christmas songs performed with reverence and tradition, you know Mahalia Jackson will deliver on both counts. The true meaning of the season truly reverberates in each and every word that comes from this gospel legend's lips in this collection of ten Christmas favorites. Nowhere is that more true than on Oh Holy Night, a song which - when it's done right, as it is here - delivers more spiritual power than any other Christmas song. What Child is This? is another of my favorite Christmas songs, and Mahalia performs it with beauty and true grace.
I must admit I had never heard No Room at the Inn, but it's a beautiful, almost dirgeful tribute to the humble nature of Christ's birth. Of course, this album is really about the joy of Christmas, so Mahalia immediately follows that song up with the nonreligious but perennial Christmas favorite Silver Bells. Mainstream songs such as this and White Christmas are actually my least favorite songs on the album, however. For me, it's as if Mahalia's voice is so spiritual that she gives these songs more power than they inherently possess. Don't get me wrong - these songs are wonderfully sung, but Mahalia Jackson was born to sing praises to Our Lord, and it is in the traditional religious hymns (such as It Came Upon the Midnight Clear and The First Noel) that her spiritual prowess shines the brightest.